Earlier this year, the metaverse was all that—brands and businesses were urged to start their virtual-world strategies ASAP or prepare for swift and certain death. Now, just weeks later, the meta-hype seems to have cooled off. But new research from global consulting firm Protiviti urges companies not to buy in to the non-hype—despite the recent cooldown, two-thirds of global business executives surveyed for the firm’s new report, in partnership with the University of Oxford, say Web 3 and the metaverse will have a significant economic impact and be important to their company’s business success over the next ten years.
The latest installment in Protiviti’s thought leadership series puts aside the on-again-off-again immediacy of embracing the metaverse and focuses instead on its future over the next decade. The survey found that 70 percent of leaders said the metaverse would be somewhat or extremely important for customer experience and loyalty over the next decade. When asked how they anticipate using the metaverse to engage customers, 79 percent said for ‘marketing/advertising’ purposes. These are not just hypothetical plans—nearly half (45 percent) of global business leaders reported starting to use the metaverse to engage with customers, with another 20 percent reporting plans to do so in the next year.
“Marketing and experiential advertising continue to be a natural entry point for companies to start using the metaverse—and adjacent technologies like AR and VR—to improve the quality and types of customer engagement they offer,” said Alex Weishaupl, a managing director at Protiviti Digital, in a news release. “As with all emerging technologies, we see an on-again, off-again hype cycle, which can contribute uncertainty about the long-term applications of a technology. However, there’s no question that the metaverse will make significant impact to customer experience strategies over the next ten years.”
Not everyone is optimistic about the metaverse
The research revealed a continental difference when it comes to metaverse enthusiasm. A stunning 85 percent of surveyed North American executives said the metaverse will be somewhat or extremely important to their future business success. That percentage compares to significantly fewer in Asia Pacific (57 percent) and Europe (46 percent).
“Global executive leaders in North America are ahead of the game in metaverse matters: the survey showed that enthusiasm and current engagement in the region is considerably and consistently higher than elsewhere,” said Dr. David Howard, associate professor at the University of Oxford, in the release. “While North American leaders have already immersed themselves more fully, counterparts in Europe, and especially in Asia Pacific, indicate that although uncertainties partly obscure the benefits of engaging with the metaverse today, the risks of lagging behind are probably far greater.”
The coming decade may decide whether caution is a virtue, or an opportunity lost, but North American executives aren’t waiting to find out. The survey found that 65 percent of North American executives reported already having a metaverse strategy in place, far outpacing Europe (32 percent) and Asia Pacific (27 percent).
“North American business leaders quickly deployed metaverse strategies, but where we’ve seen pullbacks on metaverse projects is where the investment and exploration of the technology weren’t aligned against specific business goals and expected outcomes,” said Christine Livingston, a managing director in the emerging technology practice at Protiviti, in the release. “When you think about what that first venture into the metaverse may be for your organization, it’s important to start by focusing on a vision and shared objective between technologists, C-suites and other stakeholders. Mapping use cases to business impact is necessary to be able to determine value delivered and if the investment was worthwhile.”
As executives continue to navigate their metaverse strategies, two critical decisions will include deciding which emerging technologies to pilot and anticipating potential roadblocks. In terms of the emerging technologies required to implement the metaverse, executives reported being most excited about ‘augmented, virtual and extended reality’ (65 percent) and ‘artificial intelligence’ (58 percent). Cost has so far been the primary roadblock to metaverse implementation, with 44 percent of executives reporting it as the biggest hurdle. ‘Privacy/security risk’ (42 percent), ‘interoperability’ (34 percent), ‘technology infrastructure’ (30 percent) and ‘user experience/enthusiasm’ (25 percent) were other top roadblocks reported by executives.
Access this latest installment of VISION by Protiviti.
The study surveyed 250 board members, C-suite executives and other business leaders in 15 countries representing 30 different industries about the future of the metaverse. The study was conducted from January to March 2023.
The report is part of VISION by Protiviti’s months-long exploration of the metaverse future. As part of that exploration, Protiviti has published content featuring thought leaders and luminaries in the emerging technology, metaverse and Web 3 worlds, including: